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Water Bending STEM Challenge

Water covers about 70% of our planet’s surface, and it makes up around 60% of our bodies.  It is such a common substance that people often think it is “plain” or “boring.”  But water actually has some interesting properties that make it a very unusual chemical! 

One of water’s interesting properties is that it is polar.  When you hear the word “polar”, you are probably reminded of the North and South poles of the Earth.  It’s kind of similar – just like Earth has two opposite ends, a water molecule has two opposite ends as well!  What makes them different is the electrical charge they have.  One end is positive, and the other is negative.  You can see evidence of this by completing today’s STEM challenge!

Water Bending STEM Challenge

How to do the Water Bending STEM Challenge

The Challenge: Bend a thin stream of water using a static charge. 

Materials: Faucet that can produce a very thin stream of water, balloon, cloth, or other materials to rub the balloon with

Challenge Criteria: First, blow up the balloon and tie it. Then, turn the faucet on and let the water flow in a thin stream – this is important!  The water needs to be flowing, not dripping. But keep the water stream thin because the experiment won’t work if the flow is too powerful.  Next, rub the balloon vigorously with the cloth you chose to build up a static charge.  Bring the charged balloon close to (but not touching!) the thin stream of water.  You should see the water bend slightly away from the balloon.  The challenge now is to see what type of material can build up the best charge and make the water bend the most! 

Reflection

Based on what you know about the molecules of water, why did they “bend” away from or towards the balloon?  What type of material created the strongest effect on the water? 

Challenge Extension

Charged balloons can also stick to the wall or make a person’s hair stand on end.  Using the materials you chose for this challenge, see if you can amplify this effect just like you did with the water!

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